Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Saturday, July 14, 2007

"The Futures Meme"

Over on Open The Future, Jamais Cascio offers up an amusing provocation:
So here's the task: Think about the world of fifteen years hence (2022, if you're counting along at home). Think about how technology might change, how fashions and pop culture might evolve, how the environment might grab our attention, and so forth. Now, take a sentence or two and answer...

• What do you fear we'll likely see in fifteen years?
• What do you hope we'll likely see in fifteen years?
• What do you think you'll be doing in fifteen years?

There are no wrong answers here -- only opportunities to surprise, provoke and amuse.

After providing answers of his own, Jamais asked five other people to offer up their answers to these questions, one of whom was me, and then asked which five people would we like to hear the same responses from. My response follows. The five folks (among many people I'd love to hear responses from, actually) I'd be especially intrigued to hear respond are James Hughes, Michel Bauwens, Robin Zebrowski, Nato Welch, and Anne Corwin.

My own response:

I. What do you fear we'll likely see in fifteen years?

1. Neoliberal over-urbanization's chickens coming home to roost in the form of global pandemics, unspeakably massive amplification of deaths from malnutrition and treatable water-borne diseases, further catastrophic widening of the gap between the wealth of the few and the precarity, marginality, hopelessness, and instability of the overabundant majority of human beings on earth.
2. Corporate derailment of the Green movement superficially replaces current extractive petrochemical industries with equally centralized and dangerous nuclear plants and "clean coal" and yet people feel good about this "success."
3. The same right wing zealots still presiding over the United States Supreme Court, and all of them beneficiaries of SENS-precursor therapies.
4. Fashionistas having breakdowns when the time arrives for a Retro 2000s movement and they realize that nothing both popular and unique happened in music, fashion, or art during the Bush years worthy of revival.
5. A version of myself that has become utterly unfuckable.

II. What do you hope we'll likely see in fifteen years?

1. Planetary peer-to-peer organizing implements a worldwide universal non-means-tested basic income guarantee.
2. Activists start making war unprofitable through the implementation of unprecedented War Profiteering laws, domestically and internationally. Hope sweeps the world.
3. Again, peer-to-peer organizing results in a democratically elected body with real stature either supplementing or altogether replacing the current United Nations General Assembly.
4. Bruce Sterling writes another novel as good as Holy Fire.
5. Blue Skying for the Futurological Congress here assembled: A Space Elevator under construction with the consequence that hundreds of millions of hopeful saucer eyed kids dream dreams of exploring and settling the solar system.

III. What do you think you'll be doing in fifteen years?

1. I'm hoping I can continue teaching in prestigious academic institutions and writing unreadably dense theoryhead prose online, all the while thumbing my nose at the conventional path of professorial professionalization, without ending up homeless on the street in a pee-stained overcoat howling at random passersby about socialism.
2. I'm hoping I will be contributing some small part to the education, agitation, and organizing that cashes out in Hopes 1-3, above.
3. I'm hoping vegetarianism, squats, and emerging rejuvenation medicine keeps me relatively fuckable, after all.
4. I'm hoping I'll be reading Bruce Sterling's new novel.
5. I'm pretty sure I'll still be ridiculing Singularitarians (or whatever the Superlative Technologists will be calling themselves in fifteen years' time), caught up in the same fulsome froth of True Belief in immanent artificial intelligence, technological immortalism, nanosantalogical abundance, superhuman prostheticization, and anti-political technofixes for everything that ails us.

5 comments:

n8o said...

Fear: Local and Global Precarity, exacerbated by unemployment effects of complementary developments in artificial intelligence and molecular manufacturing technologies. This includes the risk of going bankrupt or ending up dead from a lack of adequate health insurance coverage, despite a steady stream of biotech-inspired wonder cures. Europe points and laughs.

Hope: Universal Basic Income, to relieve aforementioned precarity without holding up positive technological applications and deployments. "Retirement" age "lowered" to sixteen in order to fool "work ethic" holdouts.

The killer tractor app for open source recursive fabrication projects ends up being a modular rooftop thermal solar generator. The cheap gennies and the cheap fabs to make them pop up in garages and rooftops over a period of two years with no apparent commercial product support (not that they don't try to get them on the shelves at Walmart, where they collect even lower prices every day - and dust). Power utilities manage to outlaw them over "safety concerns" in some jurisdictions, but enforcement is lax.

Telepresence apps defuse some of the Hollywood anxiety over robots when people start renting them, like taxis, from businesses to //inhabit// them remotely over by-then ubiquitous wireless Internet connections. Most robots as people know them are neither autonomous nor alien - they have regular people "in" them, operating them remotely. The trend starts with people mailing their smartphones to their buddies to "attend" conferences by streaming audio and video feeds both ways through the device, clipped to the lapels of other attendees. Physical travel becomes unhip, in addition to the customary humiliating, expensive, and wasteful.

VR tech starts to be taken seriously after Linden Lab GPLs the Second Life server code. Thousands of interconnected private pocket universes show up as the protocol reaches ubiquity and proves itself useful for more than selling yet more useless consumer crap people came to virtual reality to get //away// from. ;p

Doing: Fighting (and skirting) precarity, advocating basic income, relaxation of IP rights, and universal public access to culture, information, and technology. Surviving, volunteering, reading, thinking, writing, tinkering, creating, playing, enjoying. It's funny, because I'm already doing this. I guess I'm pretty happy with life as it is, for all its shortcomings (more for others than for me - I know I'm very fortunate). I actually don't expect that this will be the right; I just don't know what else I should expect.

aside: I often said, after dropping out of university, that my goal was "to complete my career with a minimum of professionalism." :)

Brian Dunbar said...

A Space Elevator under construction with the consequence that hundreds of millions of hopeful saucer eyed kids dream dreams of exploring and settling the solar system.

Define 'under construction' (grin). Our very optimistic goal for completion is 2031 - the plan calls for flight testing hardware and a thousand kilometer ribbon in fifteen years.

brian dunbar
liftport

Dale Carrico said...

Nato: Fighting (and skirting) precarity, advocating basic income, relaxation of IP rights, and universal public access to culture, information, and technology. Surviving, volunteering, reading, thinking, writing, tinkering, creating, playing, enjoying. It's funny, because I'm already doing this. I guess I'm pretty happy with life as it is, for all its shortcomings... [also] "to complete my career with a minimum of professionalism." Dag, n8o, we are so on the same page.

Brian of LiftPort: "flight testing hardware and a thousand kilometer ribbon in fifteen years." Excellent!

AnneC said...

Interesting meme. Thanks for tagging me, too...I am in the process of working on my responses.

Robin said...

D'oh! I forgot about this. I meant to work up answers but forgot to! Really cool questions (and answers!)

I'll get on it :)